Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008

Happy New Years (eve)! Well I’m not sure about you, but I’m sure ready for a new year. But before moving ahead I wanted to look back. Here’s my take on 2008.

Man of the Year: Barack Obama
He broke the color barrier of the presidency, and galvanized a despondent nation. By restructuring the methodology of grass roots campaigning and capitalizing on new technology, he revolutionized the way in which campaigns will be run in the future. His legacy has just started, but I see a lot of good things for the new leader of the land of the free.

Woman of the Year: Hilary Clinton
Despite her husbands shadowed reputation. Despite her questionable stance as a New York senator, she broke the glass ceiling towards the presidency. While she will more likely be known in trivial pursuit circuits fifteen years from now, I will never forget the great change she brought upon politics in terms of gender equalization.

Scumbag of the Year: Bernie Madoff
I don’t know where to begin with this guy. He more or less epitomizes the greed and corruption that brought this awful recession upon us. Through his actions alone he bankrupted numerous charitable foundations, and created who-knows what stress upon the economy at large. Awful, awful man. I hope they put him away for a long time. 

Country of the Year: China
Spectacular Olympics. Emerging economic powerhouse. Overcoming a heart-wrenching natural disaster. Contaminated dog food. China just couldn’t stay out of the news headlines this year, and with good reason. They are the largest population on the planet, have the largest standing army in the world, and thousands of year of history and culture. They are an incredible people, and an emerging face of global politics. However they’re not without their down-points. A chasm still stands between the upper and lower classes, and the quality of life throughout much of main-land China needs to be developed. Not to mention more freedom of speech and press across the coast.

Athlete of the Year: Michael Phelps
Do I even need to describe this one? 14 career gold medals. Eight gold medals in the 2008 summer Olympics. The boy is nasty. 

Team of the Year: The New York Football Giants
What was the probably the best Superbowl I'll see in my life, the Giants stopped the Patriots run at perfection. That scramble by Eli to that incredible catch by David Tyree is a high-light that will be seen for a long time. Not to mention their play-off run to get there. Great season. Hopefully they'll do it again in 2009. 

Scientist of the Year: Daniel Burd
For a high-school science fair this 16 year-old found that if you combine water, yeast and a plastic bag special bacteria develop that eat up the plastic bag in 3 months. The by-products? water, and a bit of carbon dioxide. Big discover for a little man. 

Artist of the Year: Madonna
I kind of hate to do this, but I have to. She's fifty years old, and she's still pumping out music, still producing, still making headlines, still dancing like a star, and still, dare I say it, sexy. Not to mention she's turning herself to the modern day Madonna by dating A-Rod. She's a bright shining star, you can't deny it.

Ok, now I'm off to ring in the New Year. Happy New Years! And here's to a good 2009. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I absolutely love this time of year. I love the snow. I love the smell fire smoke and Christmas trees. I love seeing family and old friends coming together. Putting a jigsaw puzzle together with my Grandmother. Showing my Dad how to check stocks online. Helping my Mom cook dinner. Watching football with my brother. I also love the sense of magic in the air, that mythical tale-spun magic that’s ingrained in all of our heads ever since we were little- even if we’re ages away from believing in Santa Claus. But more than anything else I love the feeling of Christmas spirit in the air.

But what is Christmas spirit? It’s not the ghost of Christmas past or even Christmas present. And it’s not the brandy in your eggnog. Christmas spirit is about thinking and caring for others, for no other reason than that auspicious day. And I love that. I love that there is a holiday centered around giving and thinking of others. 

One of my all-time favorite Christmas stories is that of the “Gift of the Magi”. Roughly it’s a tale of two lovers who are living in New York during the holiday season. The man has a priceless heirloom watch that’s his most prized possession, and the woman has a long beautiful head of hair that she treasures like her own child. They’re both down on their luck, and fairly poor. So when Christmas time comes along the man sells his watch in order to buy his wife a beautiful set of silver brushes. Meanwhile, on the other side of town the woman is cutting her hair in order to purchased the man a golden watch chain for his prized possession.

That is the Christmas spirit. It’s not how much money you spend on gifts, or that big bonus you receive. It’s a call to that friend you don’t talk to very often to let them know you love them, and that your life is richer for their presence even if you don’t talk much anymore. It’s helping a strangers by holding doors open, or helping carry their bags. It’s letting the single mother with her three children cut in front of you in a line. It’s that extra dollar you tip just because. It’s about thinking of others and being compassionate for compassion sake. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if we could one day stop calling this the Christmas spirit and call it the human spirit? I suppose one time out of the year is a good start.

Monday, December 22, 2008

More Economical Talk

When I was flying out to New Mexico I had a sobering chat with my taxi drive about the recession in America. He had told me that he held very little hope in the "American Dream" ever since he's had to resort to driving cabs in order to make money for his family. According to him he once owned a large construction company working out in La Canada, it was soon shut down after 9/11 when a lot of housing projects stopped. He then opened a sowing company with forty-five workers. With jobs getting exported to Mexico, he couldn't afford to keep up his operation and had to close shop. His story isn't the only sob story of recent years. I know plenty of my own friends getting laid off, and with the increase in living costs and the lack of jobs I too am feeling the pinch. But regardless the dim light he shed I kept my head up, and spoke only positively. I said that hopefully with Obama in office things will change.

Things need to change. And I only hope the momentum that Obama has built from campaigning carry over to his first term. It's no doubt that the biggest and most daunting task for Obama will be to fix the slumping US economy. Now, I'm no economical genius, and I've never even taken a class in economics (something I'll change someday); but I do consider myself a bright cookie with some ideas. If Obama asked me for some ideas this is what I would say:

Create an FDR "Alphabet Soup" type of public works project. Our country's infrastructure sure could use the help, and plus it would create thousands of jobs. Popular Mechanic's had a great article on just a handful of ideas. I know Obama is planning on starting a gigantic “green energy” project for our country’s infrastructure, and no doubt these programs will help.

Create tax breaks for those who hire within the United States, increase taxes on those who hire abroad. Hiring outside of the country hurts the United States by siphoning potential US jobs out of the country, and for the negative effect of taking advantage of cheap labor in other countries. A tax on those companies that hire outside would simply help cushion the blow that these companies are causing on our economy, and encourage creating more jobs within the US.

Make stronger penalties to companies hiring illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration and cheap labor exploitation are unfortunate truths about the society we live in. It's a very complicated situation with no easy answer, but no answer should include having the brunt of the punishments placed upon the less fortunate. Punish the companies, not the workers.

Give illegal immigrants an opportunity to become citizens of the USA. This may be a broad stroke, but it’s a big problem, and I think this will ultimately be a good thing. All these people want to do is become contributing members of a society. By giving them all the opportunity to become a citizens, you would be adding more tax money into the system, and eliminate illicit activity involved in the conspiracy of illegal immigrants.

Increase "sin" tax. Certainly with all of the financial woes going on plenty of people will be hitting the bottle. This indulgence doesn't exactly help our situation I'd imagine. Neither does smoking, or eating fattening foods. We're having enough troubles with our healthcare system, and I personally see nothing wrong with adding additional tax to sources that are known to add health problems within the population (e.g. alcohol, cigarettes, fattening foods, gambling, etc...). This tax would encourage better health, and alleviate medical costs.

Cut farming subsidiaries, or at least change the system. This one may be a bit over my head (for I don't know the full spectrum of this topic), but hear me out. Firstly, farm subsidies only support large scale commercial farming and not the family farmers. It blows my mind we're so opposed to the big box shops (i.e. Walmart), yet we're turning a blind eye and allowing commercial farming to put local farmers out of business. Second, subsidies encourage quantity over ethical and moral farming. Every farmer is paid the same regardless if they're using synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, regardless if they're exporting and undercutting local farmers in third world countries (see Life and Debt, it'll open your eyes). Third, subsidies allow farmers to create cheap food and live-stock, enabling them to undercut farmers in other parts of the world. An example of this is milk farmers in Jamaica who need to dump their milk stocks because people buy cheaper powdered milk from the states. Lastly, cutting subsidies will prevent farmers from trying to feed and entire nation, creating an overabundance of food that is never used. Large scale commercial farming hurts local farming in the long run. We need to change current method subsidy program which encourages only commercial farming. (Two other resources I've used: Gristmill and The Heritage Foundation).

Reestablish Skilled Labor classes in High-schools. With college becoming more and more expensive I think it's important that we provide the nations youth with feasible career paths outside of a higher education. While I cherish both my degrees, I don’t believe college is the right choice for everyone. I think there are plenty of options outside the higher education path, and by supplying younger people with multiple options you will help encourage those paths, and create more employment opportunities for high school graduates.

Invest money into developing a cross-continental railway system.
This could be tagged onto the above idea of a large-scale public works project. First, I’m a huge mass transportation fan (especially the railway). Adding a more effective railway system would cut-down on car emissions by creating an affordable alternative to high gas prices. Better transportation to major cities would also cut on urban sprawl, as more people from out-lying towns would be able to work within the larger metropolitan areas. Second, a large public works project would create lots of much-needed jobs (no-brainer). And lastly, a cross-continental railway would create a worldly tourist destination in the states. We are currently seeing a boom in the tourism industry in America due to our weakened dollar, but why not create the infrastructure to keep this tourism strong? This country has so much diversity, and I think a cross-continental railway would be a great way to show it off. Plus it would add much needed income to towns all across the United States.

Down-size the military, and transfer funds towards special-ops. I think (hope) that the time of large-scale army against large-scale army is over. Terrorism is our number-one enemy, and we need more intelligence than brute strength in this new world.

Curb financial institutions from taking advantage of the public. The entire reason we're in this mess is the greed and corruption of banks and credit card companies. They had their chance, and they blew it. I think tougher regulations and a policing of their policies is needed for the good of the people. I know there are talks right now to make credit card companies have a fixed interest rate, and this is a good start. Too bad it won't go into effect until 2010. 

Running a country is no easy task, and I certainly don’t envy the uphill battle Obama has in store. And while it’s much easier to come up with ideas than to effectively apply them, I think these ideas are good points to at least consider. So what do you say Mr. Obama?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Notes on: "Quick! Dig Up!"

Driving to the airport this morning I was listening to Taos’ local radio station KTAO. On the program the DJ was interviewing a city planner, as well as one of the head honcho’s from the local energy company Kit Carson Electric. The topic was renewable energy, and what people can do to help make their households more green. During the interview the woman (DJ) said something quite profound, “How you spend your dollar is one of the most important things you can do.” Now I’ve always been skeptical of the capitalist system. I don’t like that capitalism places causes people to make decisions based on the fiscal outcome as opposed to moral outcome. But if there is any positive light to be found within the capitalistic framework it’s that the people, the consumers, ultimately decide the survival of the company, the producers.

In a recent blog entry I argued that we should buy American made products to help our country out in this time of need. I made the claim based upon my patriotic (and as my friend pointed out- protectionist) beliefs. At this point I want to make it clear that this statement is conditional, and not universal (i.e. don’t just buy American to buy American, research your companies first.) Suppose an American company that makes gloves happens to work in the US, but hires illegal immigrant help at below-minimal wage. Certainly this is not a company I would recommend, for while they are American, I believe that their decisions are immoral. And this is the voting process that the DJ is talking about. For every dollar you spend, you’re casting a vote towards that cause. The representative from the energy company pointed out that by signing onto their Green Project (it's on their website), you’re adding two dollars onto your monthly power bill. Now while for some two dollars may be a lot, that extra bit you spend is a vote going towards creating more renewable energy. This act is similar to what a lot of vegetarians will tell you, “Vote with your fork.” If you don’t buy meat the demand for meat goes down. And if the demand for meat goes down, less farmers will create meat. And when less farmers create meat, that means there will be less animals deaths for meat. This formula is exactly the same for renewable energy. Spend more energy on renewable energy, more renewable energy will become available.

A giant hole in this system is that most consumers are often ignorant to a company’s working. Where do most consumers collect their information on a product? Commercials. And who pays for the commercials? The companies. As a citizen of the earth I believe it’s the consumers responsibility to inform themselves on where their money is going, and towards what causes that money is backing. This takes a bit of time, but with the internet it has become much easier to research these facts. 

I know this is an especially tough time for Americans, but when you spend those hard earned dollars try to be conscious of how you are spending them. What cause are you supporting financially? Are you casting a vote for quality products that last or saying that you’re happy to save money on wasteful engineering? Are you helping a locally owned shop or a nation-wide conglomerate? Are you giving money to an environmentally conscious entity or supporting a major polluter? The next time you slide that dollar across the counter take a good deep look into Washington’s eyes and ask yourself, “What am I casting a vote for?”

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Like a Phoenix From the Ashes...

I saw an inspiring bit of news tonight on the news (redundant I know). It basically looked at the brighter side of this whole "recession-thing". According to the news enrollment at adult education centers (Community College, Technical College, etc...) are up 18 percent. A lot of people who have been fired from their old job are now applying to school and rebooting their careers with a new one. A 50-year old man who worked at a chemical plant went to school to become a nurse and now works at his local hospital. A woman who spent ten years working in finance on wall street was laid off, and instead of thinking her life was over began to attend culinary school and is now following her life long dream to become a chef. 

Yesterday on the chairlift I was chatting with a man who had studied at Berkley to get his PhD in biochem engineering. After spending a bit of time in the hospital he decided he hated the hours, and he hated the stress. He left LA, and moved to Taos to teach skiing, become a contractor, and love his wife. I tell you this story only to show that you don't always need hardship to realize that your job doesn't always run parallel to your happiness. Some of us come to realize where their happiness lies through self-discovery and reflection; and others need something as drastic as being laid off to kick them in the butt. 

I don't have my quotations journal here, but if I did I'd recite accurately a quote from somebody I could give credit to.  But in the mean time, consider this:

"Misfortune is like a knife. 
It can be a useful tool, or cut us.
 It all depends on whether you grab the handle or the blade."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Weekly Inspiration: 12/7/08

I'm back in Taos(NM), and I'm loving my time in the high altitude. The fresh air, the star spattered skies, the gorgeous sunsets, and snow! I'm definitely a mountain/forest person over the beach. I enjoy my time there, but I'm in love with the mountains. So this week I thought I would share the inspiration of the stoney sentinels with you. 

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You cannot always stay on the summits. You have to come down again... So what’s the point? Only this: what is above knows what is below, what is below does not know what is above. While climbing, take note of all the difficulties along your path. During the descent, you will no longer see them, but you will know that they are there if you have observed carefully. There is an art to finding your way in the lower regions by the memory of what you have seen when you were higher up. When you can no longer see, you can at least still know.
                  ~ Rene Daumal, Mountain Analogue

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Quick! Dig up!

**BREAKING NEWS!! WE’RE IN A RECESSION**

Yes, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research we’re officially in a recession. The announcement Monday kind of felt like a ship captain telling you that the boat’s sinking as you have fish swimming at your ankles. But it's a good thing that the government let us know, or else the American people would be completely in the dark about today's fiscal situation in America (as can be shown in this poll by CNN in March of 2008). 

On my way to the airport this morning I had a sobering chat with my taxi drive about the economical situation in America. He had told me that he had very little hope in the "American Dream" ever since he's had to resort to driving cabs in order to make money for his family. According to him he once owned a large construction company working out in La Canada, it was soon shut down after 9/11 when a lot of housing projects stopped. He then opened sowing company with forty-five workers. With jobs getting exported to Mexico he couldn't afford to keep up his operation and had to close shop. His story isn't the only sob story of recent years. I know plenty of my own friends getting laid off, and with the increase in living costs and the lack of jobs I too am feeling the pinch. But regardless what he said I kept my head up, and spoke only positively. 

I hope things change for the better. Things need to change for the better. There is a lot the government needs to do, but there is a lot we can do as well. As bizarre as it may seem the best approach for the average citizen to help out in this economic crisis is to spend money. Not hit the mattresses and stay inside, not horde the money in your bank account, spend money. I know this is not an easy thing to accept, and as an unemployed citizen it definitely not something I'm trying to actively engage in. But that's the cold hard truth. 

Ok, so I probably didn't sell you on the spending money thing. But in all seriousness here are some other day-today habits we can establish that will help out our struggling economy. 

Shop locally. As convenient shopping online is it's only going to hurt your local electronics, garment, music, whatever shop. Keep money within your community, and shop outside it only when absolutely necessary. 

Buy American. This tip is a no brainer. I'm very much considering buying an American car my next go around. Not sure what is made in the USA? Check out Madeinusa.org, it's a nice little database to help you out. 

Stay positive. It's contagious. That smile will only spread. 

The economy is a nasty beast, and I don't understand a lot of it. But it does seem like common sense to me that if you keep money within the states and your local communities it will eventually sort itself out. I hope...


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stone Soup

Happy Turkey day!

Historically, the original Thanksgiving was a celebration of of the harvest. A, "thank God' we can still grow food", celebration of Autumn. The celebration faded as time went on, until Abraham Lincoln recommended it as a national holiday in 1863, and congress actually passed it as a holiday in 1941. I love Thanksgiving, and I love the celebration of family and community.

In my grade school every year we would celebrate Thanksgiving by spending an entire day making soup as a school in honor of the Grimm fairy tale "Stone Soup". The story is about a stranger who travels into a town with nothing but the clothes on his back. The stranger asks for a cast iron pot filled with water and begins to boil it. As he's boiling it he grabs a nearby stone and places it into the pot, claiming he's making stone soup. Intrigued, the locals begin to gather around as he's boiling the stone. The traveler offers one of the local bakers to taste the soup, and the baker notices it's a bit bland, so he offers to add some salt to the soup. He then lets a local farmer try some. Finding it too salty the farmer offers to add some vegetables. This goes on and on until everyone in the village has contributed to the pot, transforming it into a delicious soup. Our school celebrated in similar fashion. Grades were broken up and everyone would have a job. Some kids cut carrots, some cut celery, others made the soup. There were rumors as to whether an actual stone was used, but I don't think there ever was. Thanksgiving is pretty similar to this story. It's a celebration of gratitude to what our friends and family bring to our pot, even if all they can offer is a stone.

In my yoga class yesterday my instructor dedicated our practice to the concept of gratitude in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Gratitude not only for our friends and family, but everything that life gives us, even our most humbling moments. During Savasna she shared a wonderful quote by the author Melody Beattie which I thought summed up gratitude beautifully:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity... 
It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One Step Closer to a "Worldy" World Series

For serious baseball fans the off-season can often be just as exciting as the season itself. Baseball is the kind of sport that caters towards the constant reshuffling of teams throughout the years. Unlike football, soccer (futbol), and other sports; competing on a different baseball team requires little previous tactical knowledge on how the team plays. Sure there are set plays, secret hand gestures, and other intricacies found within a new team. But no matter where you go it's still 90 feet to first base, and you always try to get the lead runner out. That being said today there were some interesting moves made on the "hot stove" this week. 

The Pirates aren't always making the headlines, but today they chose to do so in an interesting way. For what they may lack in payroll they are trying to make-up for in creative scouting. Following the signing of a South African switch-hitting prospect named Mpho Ngoepe, the Bucs went ahead and signed two pitching prospects from India. What's interesting about these moves is that neither country is known for baseball. MLB has been recently trying to expand their viewer base a la World Baseball Classic, so who can blame the Pirates for getting in on the action as well? Imagine if they do bring baseball to India. What is that? A few billion new viewers? As much as I hate to admit it, baseball is as much a business as a sport. So you can't help but admire the out-of-the-box thinking from the Pirates management. 

The story of the two prospects is one fit for the best Disney movie. Originally javelin throwers in high school, the pair signed up a "The Million-Dollar Arm" contest that was held in India. Both athletes come from poor families, but ended up winning the contest of 8,000 participants. As a result they won a chance to be evaluated by US baseball scouts, and are now going to be playing in the Pirates minor league team. As the Buc's manager has stated, both boys (they're only 18) have to learn how to play the game. There's much more to baseball than being able to throw 90mph.

But what interests me is the move towards a different global market. We've seen the effect Chien Ming-Wang of the New York (F'n) Yankees has had on baseball viewership in Taiwan, so it's very interesting to see other teams go after other countries. It will be interesting to see if the Risk of obtaining India will pay ultimately off for the Pirates. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Old Post, but still relevant

Going through my drafted posts I noticed a bunch I hadn't finished. Here is one that still has some relevance, so I thought I would finish it...
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After a nice lunch of Zankou Chicken,  my friend proceeded to head out to the Arclight to see Bottleshock (One-word movie review: Meh). At a stoplight my friend (who was driving), was called upon by a fellow driver. Being the good samaritan that he was he let my friend know that his tire was looking a little (a lot) flat. My friend unbuckled his belt to lean forward to check it out, and soon enough the light turned and we were off. His belt was off literally for less than three minutes. But as luck would have it, this three  minutes was more than enough time for a bike cop to catch him with his seatbelt off, and promptly pulled us over for said violation. He was friendly enough, but as you can imagine my friend was slightly annoyed to have been pulled over for a momentary lapse in judgement. 

Two things went through my head after this incident. First, isn't it slightly ironic that a bike cop is pulling over a guy for not wearing his seat belt? Second, isn't it odd that California has a law to make people be safer by buckling their seat-belts, yet put those same drivers at risk to brain tumors and/or cancer by forcing them to wear hands-free devices. Of course I'm generalizing a common fear that has not been fully backed up. As of now there is no strong evidence to prove that blue tooth headsets cause brain tumors, as explained in this 2000 report by the FDA. But the truth of the matter is there have not been enough tests, and there has not been enough time to properly study the effects of cell phone use. Being that the technology is still fairly young. (The National Cancer Institute has a great article out-lining much of the research and pitfalls regarding cell-phone use thus far) Bottom-line is that we're not sure how cell-phone use affects our brains, but regardless California has submitted all of its residence to these "possible" side effects.

In my Medical Ethics class in college we examined vaccination laws, and how they affect the population. Some vaccinations contain ingredients that can be deadly to those who are allergic to them (and just googling to do more research some vaccines also include mercury, and have been proven to cause Autism in CHildren. But why listen to me? I'll let you do the research). But what we're looking at here is a classic example of utilitarian ethics. Doing something to benefit the whole, even though it may damage a minority. Certainly blue tooth head-sets save lives by creating safer driving conditions, and there are blue-tooth options that don't affix to your head. But the fact of the matter is that California is making its citizens wear a possible deadly device, while also forcing them to protect themselves with seat-belts. An interesting paradox I thought. 


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Grrrrrr.....

So yesterday I got together with a few friends to watch UFC 91, the "historic fight" between Brock Lesnar and Randy Couture. Training in martial arts myself (jiu-jitsu in particular), I get asked all the time what I think about MMA. I like it, I don't love it. 

My biggest problem with MMA is that while technique helps a fighter, I think it's the kind of sport where a meaner, tougher, and more athletic athlete can dominate. Look no further than UFC:91. Couture went in with a good game plan, wear down a guy who out-weighs and out-muscles him. He kept him away with boxing, and made sure that he always controlled the clinch. He even had two great escapes from bottom, but under Brocks weight it ended up wearing him out. He went in with a great game-plan, he was just not as mean/big as Brock. 

I love watching boxing. I think as a sport it requires much more technique, and I feel the same with any pure martial art. But when you get into MMA I think it's far too easy for one tough SOB to out-fight a brilliant tactician. Pride and honor aren't necessarily good qualities to have as an MMA fighter, wanting to hurt someone is. And that bothers me, because in most martial arts the first thing you learn is that you're learning a martial art so that you can come up with other ways to resolve conflict. In MMA you're trained to attack someone when they're on the ground, and give no quarter. 

I do enjoy watching it. And I do enjoy watching experienced and talented martial artists in the field. But the thing that bothers me about MMA is the crowd's blood lust, and lack of respect for the arts involved. Certainly the average fan knows a good amount of technique, and call each move when they see it. But I think for the average viewing they're more drawn for the blood shed and guys hurting each other more than the incredible technique and spirituality that can be drawn from each art. It's not that I dislike the sport itself, but I think the very nature of the sport keeps the average viewer from seeing the forest for the trees. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Turning The Page Mix

I haven't added a CD mix in awhile, so I thought it's about time. 

On an old episode of "This American Life" Ira addresses the concept of break-ups, more specifically the break-up song. In the episode writer Starlee Kine talks about a recent break-up of hers, and how music played such an essential part in the grievance process. 

"There is something so satifing about listening to sad songs... They make you feel less alone with your crazy thoughts. They don't judge you, in fact, they understand you.... They tell you they're worse without him, which is exactly what you want to hear because it's how you feel. I didn't want to be cheered up, I didn't want to bounce back, I didn't want to meet someone new.
I wanted to wallow, big time, deeply, and with least ammount of perspective as possible. And the only way to do that was to turn off my phone and to turn up the sad sad music." 

I think Starlee hit it right on the nose. Sure break-up songs can make you feel even worse than you're already feeling, but there is something so cathartic about listening to someone else's pain. Pain you can relate to. They sing the way you feel, and in a weird way you're comforted by the fact that other people have just as much heart-ache as your own. 

Recently two of my good friends have experienced break-ups, so I thought I'd post this to help them and any others going through heart-ache. This is a CD I made earlier this year when I was going through a break-up myself. Still recovering, I find myself listening to it once in awhile. I've gotten some good feedback from those who I've shared this with, so I thought I would share with you as well. 

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"Turning The Page" Mix
  1. "Where'd You Go" ~ Fort Minor
  2. "Apologize" ~ Timbaland (Featuring OneRepublic)
  3. "Better Things" ~ Massive Attack
  4. "Roads" ~ Portishead
  5. "Single" ~ Everything But The Girl
  6. "Passing By" ~ Zero 7
  7. "Hands of Time" ~ Groove Armada
  8. "I Am The Highway" ~ Audioslave
  9. "Ball and Chain" ~ Social Distortion
  10. "The Thrill is Gone" ~ B.B. King
  11. "Sometimes I Have Heartache" ~ Big Mama Thornton
  12. "Do I Need You" ~ Ann Peebles
  13. "I Hold No Grudge" ~ Nina Simone
  14. "Last Goodbye" ~ Jeff Buckley
  15. "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" ~ Bob Dylan
  16. "These Days" ~ Jackson Browne
  17. "Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight" ~ Amos Lee
  18. "Goodbye My Lover" ~ James Blunt
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"Where'd You Go" - I just love the juxtaposition soft and hard vocals on this track. I also love the simple piano hook. A song about a frustrated lover waiting for his/her work addict significant other. 

"Apologize" - I really think Timbaland is one of the best producers out there, and this track proves it. Such a powerful track, and I get goosebumps every time I hear it. So powerful, and so heart-breaking, just like a good break-up song should be. 

"Better Things" - A good reminder that there are always more fish in the sea. A simple little beat mixed with beautiful vocals. Some great lyrics as well. 

"Roads" - I don't know a single sadder sounding group than Portishead. Just a sad song that brings you to the absolute bottom of your soul. 

"Single" ~ If there was a club called "Everything But the Girl Is Under-rated" I'd totally join, and this is one of those reasons. Haunting vocals and thoughtful lyrics. A song which encompasses the mixture of emotions we all feel during break-ups. Confusion, loss, and regret.

"Passing By" ~ Another great set of pipes. This song is a bit stronger. It's about the realization that you're just a stepping stone in your lovers life, and the bitterness that follows. But in the end it's a song about strength. 

"Hands of Time" ~ I first heard this song in "Collateral", in what is probably my favorite night montage ever. An incredible and beautiful song about capturing the moment while it's there. 

"I Am The Highway" ~ A bitter bit of song. But beautiful metaphorical lyrics. "I am not your rolling wheel, I am the highway." As angry as it is powerful.

"Ball and Chain" ~ Apparently this is the angry section of the CD. This song is about being tired from a painful relationship, and being at a complete wits end in love. 

"The Thrill is Gone" ~ One of the few men on earth who can actually make his guitar cry. I don't think I need to say much else, other than if you haven't heard this song check it out. 

"Sometimes I Have Heartache" ~ Incredible voice. I was recently introduced to her this year, and I can't believe I had never heard of her earlier. For those in break-ups, she sounds how you feel. 

"Do I Need You" ~ Another "new" talent I found. Kind of like a female Al Green, which is a great thing. This is a strong song about being independent, and the realization all is not lost even if things aren't working out. 

"I Hold No Grudge" ~ A melancholy song about getting over loss in a mature fashion. Forgive, but don't forget. 

"Last Goodbye" ~ This song gets me every time. So so powerful, summarizes about everything. I love how the upbeat song is juxtaposed with such sad lyrics, kind of epitomizes the mixed feelings of a break-up. If this isn't the best break-up song there is I think it's darn close. 

"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" ~ A calm song about accepting the end, and moving on. And I think almost everyone can relate with lyric on wasting time. Great classic Bob Dylan, and his Dylan-like-frankness makes it that much sadder. 

"These Days" ~ Getting to the melancholy part again. A song just relishing the sorrow of the end. 

"Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight" ~ "There is more to love, than black and white..." A beautiful song about the realization and acceptance of change. 

"Goodbye My Lover" ~ Ok, this might be the best break-up song. Uber sad and uber emotional. Edging on to the too sappy side, but a great song non-the-less. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Riding With Mary


So this last weekend I went to a very cool photography exhibit called "Riding with Mary" by Chris Haston. It was held at my friend's hair salon (which was interesting). It was a quint little affair, and small enough where I got to have a nice long conversation with the artist. I'm currently going through a phase where I want to start to get into photography more, so it was great for me to speak to another artist about his craft. 

The exhibit is based upon "portraits" of a statue of the Virgin Mary that Chris found in a recycling bin outside of his house one day. Coming off a nasty divorce he had a build-up of creative energy that he needed to release, and through this statue he found it. He has since carried the statue around and photographed it with various backgrounds. The result is incredible. While her face is stoic and unchanging, juxtaposed with various backgrounds and lighting Chris brings her to life, and adds new meaning to each curve and crinkle of her face. 

Speaking with him he let me know that the photographs are actually "light paintings". Meaning that it's a photograph with a long exposure, and the artist uses different flashlights to "paint" in light. You may have seen this technique used in Sprint commercials. But Chris uses it in a very different manner. Instead of creating fluorescent-like figures he uses the small but powerful Surefire flashlight to throw light onto Mary or the background for the duration of the photo. He uses no other digital enhancement afterwards. The result is a subtle lighting that looks like it was done with a full light kit, and is remarkable. A superb exhibit, and one I highly recommend checking out if you get the chance. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"Isn't it Great that Prop 1 Won?" or "Don't H8te, Elevate"

I wanted to write another post about the election two days ago. Given all of the mixed emotions that I've been feeling over the past 2 days there is so much I want to talk about. I figured yesterday I'd give Barack the spotlight, cause he earned it. So today I'd like to talk about my first major election as a ""Californian"" (yes, double-quotes). 

I've always been impressed with the way California runs. While I hate the extreme taxes, I must say I am fairly convinced they all go towards something beneficial because the state (for the most part) is extremely efficient. An example of this was the manner in which their election was run. Weeks before the election I was given information in the form of multiple pamphlets. On the pamphlets they described each "proposition", an argument for, a rebuttal to the argument for, an argument against, and a rebuttal to the argument against. On top of all that the supporters (or those against) were shown underneath. Overall a very efficient system, and I like that they give the information out to all of he voters so that they are informed. 

Talking to someone at an election party the night of, I learned that propositions are actually a Western state creation. The voters of CA and numerous other states place votes into these propositions which dictate how taxes are used, the increase of taxes for certain actions, or the placement of new state regulations. Overall I like this idea. It gives more power to the people, and it [should] make the population want to pay closer attention to the movements of their government, given that their vote can drastically change the actions made by their state. 

An argument against could say that this enables large corporations or other specialty interest groups to invest money into advertising swaying popular opinion towards propositions that they've already paid lobbyists help get on the ballot. An example of this was the "Yes On Prop 10" campaign, a part of the Pickens plan. A plan created from a wealthy Texas Oil Man who spent millions of dollars to try to get rebates to create natural gas vehicles on the road. Natural gas vehicles that were created by his company. It was ultimately voted "no", fear of helping fund an oil tycoon. (Although I actually voted "yes", I like the idea of immediate action on removing diesel trucks from the road and putting more money towards wind power. Even if we are lining the pockets of a billionaire. But I digress...)

Another argument against this can be seen on the "yes" vote seen on Prop 8. Churches and many conservative groups pumped tons of money into the "Protect Marriage" campaign, supporting a vote for Prop 8 (They even paid for a sky writer). Even the fact that the Proposition was worded so that a "yes" vote means "no" is wacky. I think it should have been called "The Marriage Civil Rights Act", and a vote "yes" would open marriage to everyone as a civil right. Duh. 

But in closing I argue that ultimately the ability for citizens to vote for these propositions is a good thing. People/corporations/religious groups may funnel money into campaigns to support their interests, but I have faith in the voters to make a right and just decision. We should blame an uneducated population for unfortunate outcomes. If a vote "yes" on Proposition 8 has taught me anything it's that the peoples mindsets need to change, not the system. We still live in a world with ignorance, and it's up to us to shed light on injustice. Obama was a great first step, but it's clear we still have a long way to go until America truly becomes the "land of the free". 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Wins '08


Well it's all over now, or rather, it's just begun. The United States of America voted in the first black President. And I couldn't be prouder. 

Last night was incredible. Being here in the States you could feel the change in the air. You could hear it by car horns carried through the air in the night, you could see it in the faces of those huddled together in Grant Park. Strangers would smile in the streets, and on a single day because of a single man we all became proud to be an American. Because, as Obama beautifully summarized in his victory speech last night, this is what America is all about. Rising from improbable beginnings to the most powerful office in America. 

Congratulations Barack. You've won. And nobody can ever take that away from you. Nobody can ever take that away from us. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

V-O-T-E

Happy November 4th. I was discussing this with a friend of mine and I was wondering why this isn't a National Holiday. We could call it, oh I don't know, Election Day? We already celebrate the 4th of July, our Independence Day, and what did we fight for? The ability to vote. Just a thought. 

Well I'm excited. No matter what happens today we will be facing change today. A huge change. You look at the international pulse and all eyes are on us. Within the next Presidency lies all of the answers to all of the United States current quandaries. Will a solid economical plan stop us from falling further into a recession? Can the impact of Bush's "No Child Left Behind" be turned around? How much longer will we remain in Iraq? What's going to be our next response to the violence in Afghanistan? Will further steps against stem cell research be made? Yet while all these positives are coming out of this election I'm certainly glad this race will be over soon. 

Seeing the amount of money and smear tactics used towards the end of the race has sickened me. Obama has spent nearly $230 million dollars campaigning, but who can blame him when the McCain campaign has resorted to use outright lies against Obama? Obama is the better choice of the candidates in my mind, and is how I'm going to vote. But should Obama win tomorrow night was it because of his superior policies, or because of his superior running tactics? Did morality or commercials sway the public over in the end? 

My worry is that we're too swayed by the advertisers opinion, and not enough by our own morality. I want the reason people vote for their selection is because they are convinced he/she will be a good an just leader and not because they will raise taxes and doesn't have a military background. Certainly I'm being cynical here, all in all I think the system is a good one. I think people who believe in a righteous cause will donate time and money to the campaign, and make the entire machine run efficiently. We've even seen corporations and religions donate funds into the policies they believe in. And while I like seeing 711 and Starbucks getting people to vote with coffee, it worries me that establishments such as the Church Of Latter-day Saints try to use their influence to sway the public opinion.

My only point here is to think for yourself. Don't let flashy commercials sway your opinion unfoundedly. The research is out there. It's your right and your duty to research the propositions and the elected. Be informed through research when you step into the polls today. 

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween: Part 2

Happy Halloween! 

One of my favorite holidays. Although any excuse to get dressed up is a pretty awesome occasion. But I love the whole premise. Tricks and treats, a reason to revisit old scary movies, and as I mentioned an excuse to dress yourself up an adopt an alias for the night. 

But what I don't get was that for some reason this year there were two Halloweens. Maybe this didn't happen for everyone, but here in LA Halloween apparently happens twice. The first time happened last weekend, where I saw numerous costumed party goers roam about the streets of Hollywood, and I can only assume people are going out to dress up tonight, on the actual calender Halloween. 

Now granted I love getting dressed up. And I understand that LA is a city that is largely created upon throwing on fake identities. But celebrating one holiday twice? Halloween is occurring on a Friday this week as well, so it's not like you're going out on a weekend because you don't want to go out on a weekday. Grossing over $6.9 billion a year, economic experts have given this careless spending spree a name even: Falloween. I don't mean to hate on people partying, dressing up, or having a good time. I just hate when commercialism encourages us to go overboard holidays. And now with overnight halloween stores, holiday isles popping up in September, and now two Halloweens I just think this holiday is getting ridiculous. 

I think for my birthday next year I'm going to celebrate it twice. First on the weekend before my birthday just in case anyone is busy, then another on my actual birthday. And yes, I'd like two presents... 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

World Series Champions 2008: The Philadelphia Phillies

Congradulations Philadelphia. After 25 long years of having your city win a major sporting title here it is: your World Series Champions the Philadelphia Phillies. 

And for those who thought this was was going to be a boring World Series because no big market team was in it for shame. You can't get much better than a bringer hitting a binger, free tacos, and a half game due to a rain out. An NL team hitting with the power of the AL team, and an AL team small-balling it like the best NL team. It was a great world series, and truly the best team won it. Props to Moyer for stepping up and putting forth a strong outing, shutting the Rays down and placing my foot firmly in my mouth. And props to Lidge for over-coming his Pujol's trauma to become the relief man of the year. 

Congratulations Phillies and fans!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Dark Side of Hollywood

So I recently started a new job. A pilot for a major music station (Starts with an M, ends with a V, and has a T in the middle). It's a great gig so far, and I love the people I work with. I'm learning a ton, and I'm getting thrown into a lot of areas that I've never worked in before (casting, locations, etc...). I have many more stories, but I'd like to devote more time to telling them. But in the mean time I have a fun anecdote. 

So I was getting ready with my Production Manager to head out and do MOS (man on the street interviews. Not to be confused with the filmic term MOS which means "Mit Out Sound", another story) at Hollywood and Highland. Having worked as a PA collecting releases there before I was sharing my horror stories with her. One obstacle in particular is dealing with the wackos that dress up as various movie heroes and villains that hang around the area. They pose with tourists, then request a modest tip for their "performance"...

Me: I hate dealing with the characters there. They are so annoying. Especially Darth Vader, he's a jerk. 

PM: Yeah. Darth Vader's a big jerk. Who would've thought.

Me: And all this time I just thought it was a bad rap. 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Give a little love and it all comes back to you

So I was watching TV tonight and I saw a commercial for a new video game coming out called "Saints Row 2". The commercial was a bunch of clips from the new video game where, from my understanding, you can play as a gangster. Looks like you can shoot people, steal cars, and other gang type things. Maybe it's me getting old, but I think the violent influences in our soiety today are extremely disturbing. Many video game company executives claim that their products offer no more influence than violent movies and television programs. Two thoughts on this:

A) Violence in movies can be just as bad. And it's not something I completely condone either.
 
B) Media (TV, film, web) is a passive media. You watch and absorb, your mind shuts off. In video games you're an active participant in the violence you're creating. 

I remember last year I was at a Christmas exhibit back near my home town. They had a small collection of old toys. I remember looking at them and noticing they were just a little more than metal with paint. Nothing shot sparks, no glowing eyes, and hardly any moving parts. In order to play with those toys you had to exercise your imagination. Use your brain to play. I worry for today's children and the effect that all of the over-stimulation and adult themed media is having on them. In film school I had a professor who once told our production class to be wary of what we want to put into this world because it will manifest itself. The more violent content we create the more violence we propagate in our society. As Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I think the entertainment industry at large needs to take a good hard look at itself, and be a little bit more responsible with the "art" they are supplying our society with. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Everybody's getting Naked

I just started a new job with MTV where I do a lot of research, so I thought I'd share some videos from my researching. 

Keeping in the naked theme from yesterday, I found this video today which I thought was pretty ingenious and hilarious. 
THE BPA - TOE JAM FEAT. DAVID BYRNE & DIZZEE RASCAL

Monday, October 13, 2008

Naked Love

I saw this online today during some random research for my work. I thought it was cute, so I'll share. 

Also check out the site that made it all possible. Too cute. 



Monday, October 6, 2008

VP Debates



I noticed, and you may have as well, I have a lack of political comments on this website. I enjoy political debates, and I enjoy talking about politics. But I find political conversations always seem to end one of three ways. 

1. Both parties agree on their points of view
2. Both parties disagree, and after talking in circles both parties agree to disagree
3. One party becomes so heated in the discussion they become loud, and the conversation ends in a huff

Anyhow, given a big election is happening soon I figure I might as well use my soapbox. So like my friend I thought I would talk about the VP debates from the other night. And like my friend I think I'll just do some bullet points. A few thoughts:

• The polls showed that Biden "won" the debate, but Palin seemed more "likable". I could easily see why. Palin dodged every hard question, and repeated her thoughts on renewable energy about five times. And after she over-played that card she resorted to "Well I'm obviously new to this Washington game. Awww shucks." I'll agree she's likable, but I'm just hoping people weren't blinded by her charisma and see what a poor VP candidate is she is. 

• I was pretty impressed by Biden. He stands by his views, and I like that. I thought he was a good debater, and I'll buy what he's selling. 

• I am disappointed by both parties to dancing around the gay marriage issue. I think it's great they're both recognizing equal civil rights for homosexuals, but why can't they make the logical leap into "redefining" the institution of marriage? I realize this is a hot button issue, and probably the reason why Kerry lost in '04. I understand this is a big taboo of the catholic church, but don't we have the separation of church and state in this country? At least I thought we did. 

• I think Palin made a big boo-boo to comment that she had no idea as the to the factors of global warming, and I'm glad Bidden called her out on it. 

• I'm all about clean coal technology. And had I been in Biden's shoes I would have also pointed out that coal is abundant in our country, and by supporting that research we'd be adding jobs in American, not supporting foreign countries for energy. 

• I think MLB should have waited a bit longer before starting the NLDS game. Country should come first... then baseball. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hello October

Well it's October, and if you're a baseball that means title time. Forget those 162 games you just played for the regular season, now is the real deal. 

I love baseball, and being one I can't help but to love this time of year. I'm a Yankees first and foremost, but I won't let their absence get me down. This was a great year for baseball, and there are so many great stories heading into this play-off race. 

• The Evil Red Sox are returning to defend their title, over coming the Angels ace away. 

• The Dodgers getting two wins in Wrigley field. Both due to phenomenal hitting and three hefty errors by the Cubs (did someone say the 'C' word?). 

• The Phillies dominating the Brewers. Taking their ace for 5 runs at home. 

• Tampa Bay Rays, a team with ten consecutive 90 loss seasons coming out on top of the tough AL East (ahead of both Red Sox and Yankees), topping a veteran Chicago White Sox team. 

Not to mention a the second year in a row a play-off spot came down to a single game play-off. In case you're not tuned in check out the schedule, and turn on TBS for the games, or your local ESPN radio channel for the games on broadcast. 

As for me. I'm rooting for the Dodgers. I figure they're like me, from New York, ended up here in Los Angeles. Plus the Torre connection, and I have a man crush of Russell Martin. 

GO BLUE!!!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Good Bye Blue Eyes

Paul Newman, one of the greatest film legends of the 20th century, passed away this last Friday (September 26th, 2008) due to cancer. He was 83. While Paul Newman will always be remembered by the enormous footprint he left on the film industry, what always was remarkable to me was not his ability as an actor, but the greatness of his character. 

Paul Newman was best known as the likable rebel in films like Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Slapshot, Hud, and The Verdict. His trademarks being his cool blue eyes, his steely nerve, and magnetic charisma onscreen. His acting abilities were oft challenged due to his good looks, but these doubts were silenced when he won the Oscar for "Best Actor" for his performance in The Color of Money, along with five solid nominations for the same category. But his likeliness to a typical Hollywood actor ended there. 

Paul Newman was a philanthropist. A common Holiday tradition of making salad dressing for his friends and family turned into a charitable enterprise. He formed "Newman's Own". A food company that sold salsa's, salad dressing, lemonade, pasta sauce, and wine, giving all of the profits to charity. The recorded donations as of 2006 were recorded at $200 million. He began a summer camp dedicated to kids with cancer, it was called "Hole in the Wall Gang", named after a gang of the same name in his film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The camp even included cowboy hats so that the children with chemotherapy could hide their bald heads. He donated $10 million to his alma matter Kenyon College to help fund a scholarship. He was also one of the founders of the CECP (Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy). A group made up of CEOs and other corporate chairpersons dedicated to encourage the philanthropic donation of monies by large companies. After his son Scott passed away due to drug overdose he started the "Scott Newman Center", aimed at preventing drug and alcohol addiction. 

As a husband he stood loyally by his wife for over 40 years. As a man in the tumultuous world of Hollywood this stands a testament to his character. When asked about fidelity inside a marriage by Playboy, Paul Newman once quipped, "Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?" 

Paul Newman was also a motor enthusiast. Competing and winning many auto-races. 

At the age of 83 Paul Newman has lived harder, and accomplished more than many men or women. There are many men of talent and skill that have blessed the film community, but it is very rare to have a man with the honorable character that Paul Newman possessed bless the entertainment industry, or any industry for that matter. May his example produce more like him. 

“The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet 
with the least fuss you can muster.
 I’m not running for sainthood. 
I just happen to think that in life 
we need to be a little like the farmer, 
who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Beauty is only pixel deep


I recently found this video online on a random blog. It reminded me of an interesting article I read in the New Yorker a few months ago. The article covered Pascal Dangin, the founder of the photography touch-up company Box Studios based in New York City. As a photoshop user myself I knew what a powerful tool photoshop was, and I was perfectly aware of it's use in most fashion, health, and entertainment magazines. What I didn't know was to what extent. 

I had always thought that retouching photographs was limited to airbrushing bad skin or add make-up post shoot. Little did I know that it spans much further. Artists can slim the calves on women, and bulge the biceps of men. They can add clothes onto a scantily clad model for the Middle Eastern market, and add wisps of hair blowing in the wind. They can add flesh, add lights, and add tone. The other scary fact is how many magazines and add agencies use these technologies. Dangin views himself as an artist. The digital pixelscape his canvas, and the cursor his brush. There is no doubt it takes great skill to transmute beauty in the ways he does, but what I'm more concerned about is what affect these manipulations are having on our society. 

Without dispute I can say that we emulate ourselves based in what we see in the media. Much like the way we have our first "Ah-ha!" moment of our own identity when we recognize our own image in the mirror, we look to others for our place in the world. This ranges from socially acceptable behavior to our own aesthetic appearance. Certainly there are plenty of those who go against grain, but in our formative years (teenage and younger) acceptance is crucially important to our identity. How healthy is it for people to compare themselves to a digitally remodeled persona? I don't think the problem is that digital remodeling exists, but in how it's "presented". 

In the article there is no doubt Pascal sees his work as art. He's a staunch advocate of having creativity driving technology, and not the other way around. Like a modern DaVinci he points out how important understanding the physiology of human body is when retouching. While he may add plumpness to a breast or slim a buttocks, he's always careful not to deform the muscular and bone structure so as the models no longer look human. There is no doubt his work art. For what is art but to point out beauty in this world? To portray your subjective experience through a medium (of course the argument as to what is art goes much deeper, but is not the main purpose of this stream). The problem is his art is often not credited as art, or credited at all. As the article points out his work is never credited in magazines, and the public is mostly in the dark as to the digital transformation their role models undertake. 

It's important to remember that whether photographs are retouched or not, beauty comes from the inside. How many times have you stared into the face of a love one and blemishes that you noticed when you first met disappear. And likewise, how ugly does a person become when you discover their true colors through some immoral behavior? Beauty is not just an aesthetic value, but one of intelligence and morality. Beauty is found in confidence, strength of character, intelligent ideas, and the purity of soul. I think it's important we teach our children and others these lessons. 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"It ain't over til it's over."


Tonight the Yankees played what will most likely be the last game ever to be played in the old Yankee stadium, "The House That Ruth Built", the Cathedral of baseball. Home to 6,581 Yankees home games, 161 play-off games (more than any 3 stadiums combined), 85 years of tradition, 37 American League Pennant titles, 26 World Series Championships, 20 classic boxing match-ups, 3 Papal visits, and one legendary baseball team.  

While Yankee stadium will always be known as the home of the Bronx Bombers, it also hosted many many historic boxing matches. Including an aging Jack Dempsey's come from behind win over Jack Sharkey, the historical knock out of the German Schmeling by Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali defending his title against Kevin Norton. Yankee stadium also hosted a myriad of football games. The Notre Dame-Army game, where coach Knute Rockne was said to give his "win one for the gipper speech at half-time" at half time. The NFL championship game between the Colts and the Giants in 1958, a nail-biter that is hailed as the single game that elevated American Football into the national spotlight. 

Aside from sports the stadium served as a meeting place for Mass during Papal visits, a concert venue for U2, Pink Floyd and Billy Joel, and a memorial service for those who suffered during 9/11. The stadium also held a wedding, between blind Yankee sportswriter Ed Lucas and his fiancee Alison Pfieffle. 

But of course when people think of Yankee stadium they will always think of the Yankees. They will think of pinstripes, and they will think of the prestige. Those who have attended games will recall the Hammond Organ playing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch, the deafening clamor of the New York fans, and the white frieze running atop the stadium. Players who were lucky enough to play there will always remember that moment that they got to share the same space that baseball legends such as Ruth and DiMaggio once occupied. 

I feel our society does not hold onto tradition as much as we should. We're too quick to tear down our history, and being such a young country we have so little to begin with. The Yankee stadium is history. It's our coliseum, it's our pyramid. It's one of the most storied buildings in New York city, and without a doubt the greatest stadium in baseball history. 

In the words of Bob Sheppard, voice of the Yankees, during the seventh inning stretch of the last game:
Farewell old Yankee Stadium, farewell
What a wonderful story you can tell
DiMaggio, Mantle, Gehrig and Ruth
A baseball cathedral in truth
Farewell.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Band on the Horizon: Alberta Cross

Jump on now, cause this London based New York polished Americana rock band isn't going to stay quiet much longer. They are already touring with Oasis currently, and I'm sure they will be hitting it much bigger once another album gets cut. 

They are a wonderful mix of soulful vocals and bluesy guitar riffs all set on top of a solid rock foundation. Their first (mini) album The Thief and the Heartbreaker is a wonderful mix, showing their strong original sound based upon old-rock goodness. It all sounds familiar, but wonderfully new, leaving you wanting more. A few of my favorite cuts include, "Low Man", "Old Man Chicago",  "The Devil's All You Ever Had", and "Hard Breaks". 

Pick up the mini-album on iTunes if you like solid rock with a bluesy edge and heart-felt vocals. And keep these guys on the radar, I have a feeling they are just beginning.

iReview the iPhone

So I bit the bullet. With my Verizon contract approaching an end I decided to cut my ties with them and head to AT&T for the iPhone. It was a long time coming. Ever since I was a wee one I was a Mac user. I remember way back in the day when it was System 7, and the big technological jump was going from 16 colors to 256 colors (wow, I feel very dated). I'm getting very scared for when I get older and have kids, "Back in my day we didn't have neural implants, had to type with our hands..."

 But before jumping into the good of the phone (cause there is plenty), let me first give the bad news: as a phone it's fairly weak. While I could easily dial up people with a few quick button presses on my old phone, I now find myself constantly waiting for for my iPhone to catch up so that I can dial out. Plus my entirety of my contacts are now in my phone, and sorting through to find names can sometimes take more effort than you wanted to spend. 

The goods news: as a gadget it is very cool. 

I was a subscriber to .Mac before, it allowed me to store my contacts online, gave me an e-mail address, as well as a small amount of online storage all for a yearly fee. The site changed, and it's now called 'MobileME'. This service links my iPhone to my computer. THerefore if I change a contact on my phone on my computer it syncs up with my phone, and if I erase e-mail from my phone it erases on my computer, and visa versa. It also has my calender, world clocks, an alarm clock, notepad, maps (with SIGalert traffic), calculator, and weather, plus more. On top of all that, you can also download new applications to customize the iPhone more to your personality/usage. Some programs inclue:

Taxi: locates your location through GPS, then gives you numbers  to local taxi companies (plus show the cross streets of your area)

urbanspoon: the program picks a random restaurant and shows the food type, area, and cost. If you don't like it just shake (yes, shake) the phone again and another random restaurant is picked. Links to the internet to show you reviews and sometimes menus. 

Trulia: links you with the Trulia website. Finds your position on the map and shows you open houses within your area. 

Yelp: links with the Yelp! website. Uses your location to find local restaurants, bars, coffee houses etc... Then links you directly to the user reviews. 

Moves: Search out films by either location, film, or theatre. 

Mobile News: Shows you news articles from around the world through AP. 

Remote: Maybe my favorite. This allows you to control your iTunes from your iPhone. That means I can be in my kitchen playing my music from my room and change it via my iPhone. Too cool. 

Of course the other bad news is that with so many cool features you can easily kill your battery if you play around with your toy too much. But all in all I'm loving my new toy, and it's blowing my mind how much smaller the world just got. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11/08

Seven years ago today America suffered one of its greatest modern-day tragedies. 19 evil-hearted men caused the death of over 2,974 innocents. It also marked the day all Americans held a single collective breath, stunned by the sudden realization that we too are vulnerable to the rest of the world. 

Today we mourn the losses suffered, but let us also use this day to inspire hope. Hope for a new world of understanding and brotherhood. Hope that the world will learn that evil prescribes to no single religion and bears skin of many colors. Let us pray for peace and tolerance in war torn areas. Let us pray that those with power and influence use their vantage point for philanthropic and not selfish purposes. Today tell those you love how special they are to you. For if 9/11 taught us anything it's that life is full of unexpected surprises, and those that we love can be taken away in an instant. 

Below is a small video I made my Sophmore year at College. It's a short montage made with footage I took from the memorial service held at Trinity, as well as footage I captured by Canal St. in New York soon after 9/11. It was the first time I played around with iMovie and a camera by myself. The events of 9/11 stirred up so many emotions for me I needed to do something to express myself, and film seemed the medium I was most comfortable with. It's rough, as one can expect from the fledgling work of a young artist. But whenever I watch it it transports me back to that time collecting the footage in NYC. I was there donating work boots and work gloves with my girlfriend at the time, and I can remember the shocking stillness of the scene. Certainly it was chaotic and busy, but there was an auspicious air about. But regardless where you went there was not a single wish of revenge, or invective of hatred towards the killers. Instead there was unity, people joining together, helping each other. I believe in times of great pain and sorrow we witness the best in human nature, and they all stem from a place of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Google Search: True Love

I know I've been on hiatus with my 'Meditations on Love' entries, but there are still a few more chapters I'd like to squeeze out. So onward...

With the recent bombardment of technology we've encountered in the past decade our entire world has changed. The way we interact with people, and the way we feel for people has also been affected. In this entry, I want to take a look at how these changes have affected the way we go about relationships, and how we love. 
--------------------------

How can I miss you if you never leave me? 

I once wrote that to a lover a long time ago during a stint at a Colorado Outward Bound course. I was out in the middle the woods in a national park, and I had only a picture of us to remind myself of her. But what I meant by it was that she was still everywhere, my memories or her voice, her smell, and her glowing smile. Of course at the time that statement seemed very endearing, but with today's technology that statement is quite literal. If you are on a trip, or far away from your loved ones you have many ways of keeping up with them today. There is Skype, AIM, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Text Messaging, E-mail, Webcams, Blogs, etc... Missing physical contact with each-other? They even have a vibrator that can be controlled from a remote location by your lover over the internet. Or suppose your love fades, and the relationship ends. Whereas a few years ago you would never hear from your ex, today their information is still easily accessible. Whether you see their relationship status change on Facebook, pictures of their new significant other on MySpace, the urge to communicate when seeing them on AIM, or reading their Blog; you ex is always within the reach of a few keystrokes.

Compare this model to how things used to be "back in the day". Let us look at love in a time before e-mail, before telephones, before telegrams even. To get in contact with your lover you would have to physically write a letter, and wait the months it would take to have the letter delivered by boat or horse, and have then wait for the response to be delivered back. Today it is as easy as sending a text message and waiting a few seconds (which of course you can check to see if they've read it or not). Compare a common "love text" today with a exceprt from a love letter written in 1838.

2008
i luv U

1838
What would I not do for love of you, my own Clara! The knights of old were better off; they could go through fire or slay dragons to win their ladies, but we of today have to content ourselves with more prosaic methods, such as smoking fewer cigars, and the like. After all, though, we can love, knights or no knights; and so, as ever, only the times change, not men's hearts...

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. And with today's technology they say the world is getting smaller, does that mean our fondness and desire for others is waning as well? In order to tackle this question let us look at another way technology has changed our love lives, the way we meet people. 

With social networking sites like MySpace and dating websites like Match.com and eharmony meeting people would seem to be easier than ever. Sign up for a site, type in the attributes you are looking for a mate, and hit enter. Voila. Multiple different profiles show up, and you can browse through them to select who you would like to contact. All of the benefits of meeting people in a bar, but without shouting over loud music. But there is one factor, which I mentioned in my previous entry, that you cannot search for: chemistry. Don't be surprised if you meet that athletic, open minded female that listens to the same music and the result is one hour of awkward painful conversation. Even with the benefits of technology, finding a lover seems just as hard as ever when actually applied. 

An article in The Atlantic a few months ago looked at the effects that new technology (more specifically Google and the internet) had on affecting the way we think. The argument loosely says that our brains are not instinctively programed to read, that we must train it to read, and the way in which we read directly affects the way we think. We are in the process of adjusting to reading on the internet. We no longer sit and read a long novel, slowly examining plot, sentence structure, and vocabulary. We are now in the world of the internet. We have a near infinite amount of resources, and as a result we have now resorted to a scanning method of reading; jumping from webpage to webpage, traveling on a highway of hyperlinks, going wherever our curiosity takes us. While the article convincingly shows us how our minds have changed through this new technology, one thing that is not covered is what is the effect of these changes on our emotions? Surely thought and feeling are connected, and since our thought process is changing naturally so must feelings. 

Surely on could say computers can replicate our thought process; Google is nothing more than an artificial intelligence. When someone asks me what kind of car passed by my mind instantly researches my knowledge on car shapes and logos, finds the correlating images, and verbally expresses my "search results". But while computers maybe able to simulate our thought process can they mimic our abilities to emote and love? The reason I bring this up is because the more we use the computer and internet to acquire information the more our brains become like one. The playwright Richard Foreman worries we risk becoming "pancake people", a people spread too wide and too thin (or even worse becoming crepe people... bad joke). He mentions that mistakes are human, and it is often through mistakes that we learn and grow. With todays instant gratification it's no wonder that we see so many divorces. If something doesn't work perhaps you just searched wrong, therefore the answer is simple, click 'back' and try another result. My Grandfather once told me, "find a good woman and stay with her." An old fashioned way of thinking perhaps, but perhaps just a way of thinking that existed before our minds became the scatterbrained models that they are now. 

As I'm typing this I realize my mind itself is wandering, and there are no real conclusions I am coming to here. But I suppose this post is more of a survey of the way technology has affected the way we love. So with that I'll leave you all of these thoughts to ponder, and ask yourself how technology has affected you and your mind. 

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Coming to a heaven near you...

You may not know the name Don LaFontainea, but you've heard his voice; you've memorized his voice, and you've mimicked his voice. He's told you about far away lands, heroes in need, and evil villains. Don LaFontainea is perhaps the most famous voice in film, yet has never starred in a film. If you haven't guessed by now, Don LaFontainea is the famous grizzly voiced baritone of the trailer world. Known as the "King of Voiceovers", he has had over 40 years of voice over work experience, he is know to have recorded for over 5,000 movie trailers, recording up to 80 in a single day. Don passed away on September 1st, 2008. He is survived by his daughters Christine, Skye, and Elyse. 

Rest in peace Don LaFontainea, the film world will miss you.